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Dry pasta recommendations?

I like to start a sub-thread, and I think it will be both a light-heart continuation of the current conversation and a practical one.

I used to buy a lot of dried pasta, but I have not done so for the last 3 years. I often bought the ones on sale. I do remember buying Barilla because they are not too expensive and they are good.

So, for those of you who talk about avoiding Barilla pasta, do you have any good recommendation for dry pasta?

Fresh pasta does not count, and home made pasta definitely does not count.

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    1. Culinary Circle, if you can find it. I buy it at Shoppers Food Warehouse in the DC area. It's bronze cut and about $1.50 a pound. They have harder to find shapes like bucatini, pennoni regate, cavatappi. Their linguine holds clam sauce beautifully. Come to think of it, I haven't made a trip to Shoppers in a while and need to for this.

      http://209.236.70.39/items/culinary-c...

        1. re: cheesymama

          I love Delverde. Not too expensive either.

        2. I used to buy DaVinci, but my regular grocer (Raley's) dropped it. It's hard to find now, although I haven't tried to find another source because it doesn't matter that much to me. I have a variety of brands in my pantry, including DaVinci (Italian), Maltagliati (Italian), Vitale (Canadian), Raley's, and Barilla.

          Raley's has a new Nob Hill Trading Co. brand of premium products which include pasta. I might try that, but the selection is limited to the most common shapes and sizes now.

          2 Replies
          1. re: GH1618

            I definitely remember DaVinci. Man, I cannot even remember which one I like. I remember San Giorgio too.

            1. I do care about pasta and foods generally, but I have to say that most of them seem fine to me. But then again, I never buy rock-bottom priced brands. For me, it's a toss-up between the following brands, and I go by price: De Cecco, Barilla, Mueller, and Ronzoni. There are some one-off purchases: for example, my local store was apparently discontinuing their organic Dellalo line of pastas and I loaded up on them (excellent and clearance-cheap). Not sure I've tried many of those "artisinal" lines that talk on their labels about their bronze dies, etc. (e.g., Rustichella D’Abruzzo), but I bet they're good.

              Cooks Illustrated recommended the Bionaturae line for whole-wheat pastas. I tried some, and it was indeed less offensive than the other whole-wheat or partly-whole wheat ones I've tried, but that's not exactly high praise, either.

              15 Replies
              1. re: Bada Bing

                < but I have to say that most of them seem fine to me.>

                That is my problem too. They are all alright.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Same. To me it's just dried pasta. I don't see how you can truly make it great or awful, but I'll admit, I haven't tried a lot of these brands listed, so maybe I'm wrong.

                2. re: Bada Bing

                  Hi, Bada:

                  I suggest you get over the pasta blahs by ordering a pound of fresh bronze-cut from Il Corvo. ilcorvopasta.com See, http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/06/ea... They sell dry pasta, and I'm pretty sure they will ship. If they won't, I will.

                  Aloha,
                  Kaleo

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    The new Nob Hill brand is bronze-cut. Do you know why that matters?

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Looks amazing, Kaleo. I even visit the Seattle area once or twice a year, so maybe I'll check out the guy's restaurant.

                      To GH1618: I've heard that the bronze-dies used to cut dried pasta produce a rougher texture that allows sauces to adhere and integrate more effectively with the pasta. There might be other factors, too.

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        Yes, the bronze dies are used to obtain a rougher surface, which means an increased surface area. The advantages of that go beyond sauce-sticking. It makes the pasta more absorbent so the sauce goes into the pasta, more than just sticking to the surface. And even while the pasta is boiling, the salted water passes through the pasta better (or something), which also enhances flavor and texture.

                        (I've decided that if I'm making pasta for a buffet party, it's probably better to use a cheaper kind as the good stuff is too absorbent to sit out for an extended time.)

                        Bronze dies should ideally be accompanied by slow drying at low temperature, which also helps bring out the flavor of the pasta. This will probably be on the label as producers that can manage to do it are proud of the fact (humongous Barilla, for example, blast dries or they'd never be able to crank out the volume they do). Cavalieri, another excellent brand in addition to those already mentioned, boasts "delicate" drying. In fact, historically the drying was the secret of good pasta and the reason why Gragnano, with its hot sun and sea breezes, became so important. Also Torre Annunziata. The drying of pasta was a whole science, with the master pasta maker studying the weather and deciding when to bring it in out of the sun and when to take it out. (This is described in Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita, trans. moi.)

                        Another important factor nobody has mentioned is the quality of the wheat. The best pastas grow their own in Italy (e.g., Verrigni, Latini) or at least select carefully.

                        I buy Cavalieri, Cocco, Martelli, and Gragnano, often depending on the shape I want, since those are the brands I find at my habitual gourmet shop, Volpetti, in Rome. If I wind up having to buy at the supermarket, I usually get Garofalo, but also De Cecco. The other evening I made a humble spaghetti with tuna and tomatoes -- with super tomatoes from a friend's garden, fabulous tuna in olive oil -- and was pleased when Franco, my Roman husband, looked up and said "This is GOOD." (I was less pleased at the note of surprise, of course.) And then he specified that he was referring not to my wonderful sauce but to the pasta itself, which was Garofalo.

                        And one final note: I think that anyone who is paying attention and still can't notice a difference between pastas is using too much sauce. The pasta is meant to be the main attraction, not a vehicle for sauce.

                        1. re: mbfant

                          What an interesting and informative answer. Thanks! In particular, I don't think I've thought much about differences in drying.

                          Of the brands you mention, I'm only aware of De Cecco being commonly on hand here. It's the pasta I most commonly buy. I will have a look around in our two specialty Italian markets here to see if they stock any of the other brands you mention.

                          In 1996 I spent about a month in Italy (centered where my friends lived, in Perugia, Umbria). Especially after that visit, where I really saw all kinds of things about daily Italian life (for better and for worse), I came back to the USA with a way of thinking about pasta dishes which is often different from the American norm.

                          You are right that Americans tend to expect and even demand way too much sauce in pastas (provided, of course, that we regard them as caring much about pasta as such--I think, really, most Americans care more about the sauce, regarding pasta as a virtually neutral background).

                          1. re: mbfant

                            >>> And one final note: I think that anyone who is paying attention and still can't notice a difference between pastas is using too much sauce. The pasta is meant to be the main attraction, not a vehicle for sauce. <<<

                            Although I've never considered this before, I might be inclined to disagree. Some of the time-and-labor-intensive sauces I make are so delicious, I think the pasta IS the delivery mechanism. In fact, if I were to serve one of those sauces (say, duck ragu, or a wonderful Bolognese) with a great pasta, and someone commented on how good the pasta, itself, was, disregarding the sauce, I might be somewhat insulted.

                            If the pasta was the main attraction, I'd be inclined to serve it with a simple sauce -- butter and sage, for example. But when I labor over a sauce, to me, that's the star of the show. Just my opinion...

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              pasta with butter and grated cheese.

                              a simmering pot of sauce, no pasta, just crusty bread for dipping.

                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                Pasta with butter and cheese is a go to for me. Sometimes if I'm feeling creative I'll ad a dash of olive oil, a splash of lemon, and a bit of basil. I trust your opinion, is this wrong?

                        2. re: kaleokahu

                          I don't actually see how the pasta is orderable on the Il Corvo website. Is it in retail stores anywhere?

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            Hi, Bada:

                            They always keep about 4 different shapes bagged up and ready for sale. I'd just call 'em and see if they'll ship--they prolly haven't even thought to offer it on line.

                            If they won't, like I said, I'll pick up a bag for you to try. Think the bags I bought were pricey, around $8/pound, so that plus shipping can make it happen...

                            Aloha,
                            Kaleo

                          2. re: kaleokahu

                            Hi, Kaleo,

                            I've just scheduled a flight into Sea-Tac to visit family for Thanksgiving. As I have a rental car, and we're to land 11am this coming Tuesday, I think I'll try this place before heading down to Olympia, where my family is. Let me know if you'd like to join me and my 14-year-old son for lunch. Or also, whether the place is tricky to get into--like long waits. If they sell dried stuff there, I can pack a bunch for the trip home.

                            1. re: kaleokahu

                              Hi, Kaleo,

                              Thanks for the tip! I made a special point of dropping by the Il Corvo restaurant on my recent trip to WA. The pasta is truly outstanding, as good as, if not better than, any I've tried before. The place was really busy, with a line, but the line moved pretty well in sync with the departures of people at the tables, so all was well. Clearly, this place has buzz. I bought a bag of dried pasta to take home to Indiana.

                            2. re: Bada Bing

                              If I'm going for healthy pasta, I'll always go for Barilla Plus.

                            3. If you're near a The Fresh Market, I really like their store brand Italian-made dried pasta. Though I'll note that it can be more expensive than the big national brands.

                              I've also had good experiences with Target's Archer Farms level of dried pasta, though it's somewhat limited in terms of size & shape.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: beachmouse

                                <I've also had good experiences with Target's Archer Farms level of dried pasta>

                                Really? I have seen them all the time, but never tried them. No, I don't think I am near a The Fresh Market.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Hey there, ChemicalK -- you're near Philly, aren't you? We've got The Fresh Market in Glen Mills.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    We do? Thanks. Apparently, I don't as much as I should.

                                2. re: beachmouse

                                  It's interesting how often I hear the Target Archer Farms brand extolled in its various forms. I even have a "Super Target" nearby, but for some reason I just almost never go there. But that place does seem to do supermarketing well. Should be better known for it.

                                3. Try a bag of Martelli spaghetti, it will be tough to go back to DeCecco or DelVerde.

                                  1. Used to buy DeCecco but now buy Giuseppe Cocco.
                                    It's more expensive , in fact almost twice the price but it's worth it for the quality.

                                    1. The local Trader Joes sells dry pasta for 99 cents

                                      7 Replies
                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          I enjoy it as I find that barilla is not the same quality it was before and ronzoni is a hit or miss. Trader Joes has a cinnamon aroma to it and I find it flavorful and it cooks up al dente every time. It is sturdy enough for most sauces and applications. I often finish my pasta in a pan of sauce, so a sturdy pasta is crucial. Otherwise it disintegrates and is awful. Trader Joes holds up nicely. And it’s 99 cents.

                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                            Cinnamon aroma??? Huh. Not necessarily what I'd want in my dry pasta, save for maybe with a bolognese.

                                            And I *always* finish my pasta in the sauce.

                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                              I would be pretty damn surprised to find my pasta smelling of cinnamon. Surprised as in marching back to the store.

                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                I like some of TJs pasta (generally the filled) but have stopped buying plain pasta because of this flavor. It seems more of a nutmeg background flavor to me and can be very off-putting, depending on your sauce.

                                                I haven't been eating much pasta lately but will be jotting down everyone's recommendations. I have a very limited selection of pasta here in west TN but have seen De Cecco. Food is probably the biggest challenge here.....*sigh*

                                                1. re: Dee S

                                                  I just Googled "pasta tastes" and the first thing that came up was "cinnamon".

                                                  Apparently, most people do not like this and TJ's ain't the only place according to many websites.

                                                  I assume that if cooked in almost any non-Italian way (boiled to death in unsalted water) the cinnamon aroma would go away. I will not be trying that soon. I don't find the aroma off-putting as many do. I can easily work with it in any recipe. I also boil 1Lb of pasta in 1Gallon of heavily salted water. 2Lbs, 2 pots, each with 1Gallon of heavily salted water.

                                                  Bland pasta is more of an issue. There is nothing I can do with flavorless pasta. And I am gulity of occassionally eating a forkfull or two of pasta straight outta the boiling (salted) water, just to be sure I know what to do with my sauce. If the pasta itself is flavorless... I'm stuck.

                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                    I salt my water until it tastes like the sea, use a proper ratio (don't crowd) and cook al dente. There is no aroma for me; it's a clear and distinct flavor. It doesn't go away when cooked. That's why I don't buy TJs unfilled pasta any more.

                                                    TJs is the only brand of pasta that I've had that issue with. Maybe they have a stronger smell/taste than others.

                                                    I should just make my own and call it done! One day.....I know it's easy but pasta intimidates me!

                                          2. My go-to brand for everyday pasta -- linguini, spaghetti, etc. is Barilla. I like Barilla and find nothing wrong with it. It cooks up al dente and once it's sauced I doubt that anyone could tell the difference between that and a more expensive imported brand.

                                            Of the "specialty" pastas I have in my pantry right now, there's Garofalo (calamarata), Gerardo di Nola (fiori cinque colori) and Piemonteiss (trofiette).

                                            1. I don't used boxed pasta-can't stand the taste of cardboard. My absolute favorite dried pasta is PASTENE brand from Massachusetts. They were one of the earliest importers from Italy and have kept the quality at a high standard.

                                              It can be bought on line if not available in you area. Their wensite has a store locator as well.

                                              http://store.pastene.com/merchant2/me...

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                Tip: you're supposed to take the pasta out of the box before cooking it.

                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  Don't give up your day job....you won't make it as a comedian.

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    Thanks. This also explains that plastic taste I get with some other brands. :)

                                                2. Rustichella D'abruzzo is my absolute favorite. Unfortunately, it's expensive and requires a special trip many miles from my usual grocery store. My go to mass market pasta is De Cecco. I've tried Barilla on a couple occasions and have not been impressed.

                                                  1. De Cecco of course because it's everywhere now thank goodness.
                                                    One brand you guys must try is Archer's farm pasta made by Target....I know some of you may be cratching your head but trust me and try the brand. better than De Cecco and any other gourmet brands i have used. and actaually it's not cheap either at around $2.99

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Monica

                                                      Hmm ... intriguing. I wonder who actually makes it.

                                                      1. re: foiegras

                                                        that's a good question. I should check when I get home. I know it is imported from Italy.

                                                    2. Cipriani is great if you can find it:

                                                      http://www.gourmetwarehouse.ca/Cipria...

                                                      Amusingly priced.

                                                      1. I like de Cecco as well, and Lidia's brand is pretty good too (though significantly different). I will branch out if I have to for a shape I can't get from these brands, but ... these are the best (of what's easily available to me).

                                                        PS Pasta is cheap, you don't need to get it on sale.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: foiegras

                                                          Lidia's pasta was on sale for $1.79 at my local supermarket. not too many varieties though.

                                                        2. America's tastiest kitchen did a tastint test of dry pasta last night on tv. De cecco won but I was surprised to hear that Ronzoni was their favorite until De cecco took the first place recently. I haven't tried Ronzoni since I was growing up in my mom's house so I forgot how it tasted it like and as a kid, I didn't care what pasta brand I was eating.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Monica

                                                            I'm not surprised by Ronzoni coming in ahead in taste tests. Like you, growing up was Ronzoni.
                                                            Now I think Ronzoni has upped the pasta they make. They have to keep up in the market. It is inconsistent though. But generally good.

                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                              According to America's kitchen, any pasta that uses durum flour isn't going to be that good..Ronzoni is one of them. Durum flour is cheaper than semolina flour according to them.

                                                              1. re: Monica

                                                                Durum is a type of wheat. Semolina is a type of flour made from durum wheat. According to Marcella Hazan:

                                                                "... semolina, which is milled from durum, the strongest of wheats. ... It is the only suitable flour for industrially produced pasta, ..." (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                  Yes, what are they talking about? If they were using the Italian terminology, farina versus semolino, they might make sense (maybe), but it is all durum wheat flour, the only wheat suitable for industrial pasta, as Marcella says. In fact, in Italy even egg pastas that would normally be made with farina di grano tenero (soft wheat) must by law be made of durum when industrially produced. The only difference between semolino (the Italian term) and farina is that farina is ground more finely. Any industrial pasta not made entirely of durum wheat will not cook properly al dente and Italians wouldn't eat it, or sell it. There are stories about some small manufacturers adding a little grano tenero so the water gets extra starchy, but I don't know anything about that. Officially it's all durum wheat, grano duro.

                                                          2. Barilla. They have some of the tastiest recipes on the box. Makes for an easy shopping experience.

                                                            1. Okay... so I'm slow on the uptake. I JUST read that other Barilla thread (or part of it -- it's a tome). So avoiding Barilla pasta has NOTHING to do with its quality. Well, count me among the former buyers.

                                                              1. Maltagliati brand is my current favorite. I used to get Ronzoni when I lived on the east coast, and continued to buy it here in Seattle until Safeway stopped carrying all but the lasagna noodles. I still think Maltagliati wins on flavor over Ronzoni, De Cecco, Garofolo, Barilla, Mueller and of course the usual supermarket brands like Safeway Select and Eating Right. Fortunately, there's a store called Big John's PFI here that carries quite a few different Maltagliati pasta forms. Another plus is they sell it for about $2 a pound.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: nokamoto

                                                                  If you live in Seattle, you should check out what kaleo mentions upthread:

                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9187...

                                                                  1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                    Well, much as I'd love to try Il Corvo Pasta, those hours (M-F, lunch only) come off as irritating and elitist unless one already works downtown - which I don't. Maybe someday I'll find myself nearby during the work week at lunchtime with no plans, though that's never happened in the 17 years I've lived in Seattle.

                                                                    1. re: nokamoto

                                                                      It's a small operation. Maybe they sell some locally? I find it hard to empathize with your sense of great inconvenience when I'm 2000 miles away from it myself. Maybe they're open on President's Day? Maybe your plans could incorporate a visit?

                                                                2. Anybody tried Inulin Pasta? It is a soluble fiber that tastes like pasta. Made from Artichokes.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                    If that's a brand, not sure, but I have had artichoke pasta at a vegan restaurant. It left me ... unimpressed.

                                                                  2. I love bucatini pasta, especially with my favorite dish, all'amatriciana, but it is really hard to find around here. I used to stock up on Barilla pasta whenever it went on sale, but I'm not buying it anymore, and the only other options are Mueller's, Ronzoni, and Publix store brand. None of them make bucatini, or if Barilla does, Publix never stocked it here.

                                                                    Anyway, I recently found Garofalo bucatini at Fresh Market and tried it (and not just because I spent most of my teens and twenties with a huge crush on Janeane Garofalo). It was very good quality, but more expensive than I'm used to paying for dry pasta. Fresh Market also carries De Cecco (our Publix doesn't), but Garofalo was actually a little cheaper.

                                                                    Target carries Giada DeLaurentiis' pasta brand, and she has bucatini in the same price range as De Cecco and Garofalo at Fresh Market. How is Giada's pasta, compared to all the others?

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                                      I have tried Giada's bucatini from Target and it was good. better than other national brands. Try the Archer's farm's spagetti next time you go to Target. Wonderful really delicious pasta...the sauce literally binds to the pasta really wonderfully...

                                                                      1. re: Monica

                                                                        I'm a huge fan of Archer Farms products in general, especially the potato and tortilla chips, the salsas, and some of the condiments. Never tried their pastas, but I will when I finally use up all the Barilla stockpiled in my pantry.

                                                                        It looks like a lot of the Archer Farms stuff is being rebranded into something else, with generic-looking blue packaging and a forgettable name that suggests they're wholesome or healthy or something.

                                                                    2. I'm an absolute clunk when it comes to boiling spaghetti—it NEVER comes out right (gummy exterior, undercooked interior), so I've always bought vermicelli instead which ALWAYS comes out right, al dente throughout.

                                                                      For years my go-to brand was Golden Grain, but my Safeway stopped carrying their vermicelli, so I read this thread for recommendations.

                                                                      I tried Barilla, but whatever it is that makes the cooked product act in the way it does in that commercial where it doesn't break during the kiss, seems off-putting to me texture-wise.

                                                                      After some trial and error, my new favorite brand is: Safeway's house brand. It even comes in vermicelli. Yey!